Rex Tillerson fired: Timeline follows US Secretary of State's time in the Trump administration


Donald Trump has announced he is replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an abrupt end – after months of speculation – to a bumpy tenure for the former oil executive. 

“I wish Rex a lot of good things,” Mr Trump said. “I think he’s going to do — I think he’s going to be very happy. I think Rex will be much happier now.”

1 February 2017: In a 56-43 vote, the Senate confirmed Mr Tillerson as Secretary of State. During his confirmation hearing, Mr Tillerson indicated that he could depart from Mr Trump on a range of issues. 

28 April 2017:  Mr  Tillerson proposed cutting 2,300 jobs from the State Department and 26 per cent of its budget, in line with the Trump administration’s budget proposal in March. Since taking office in January 2017,  Mr  Trump has indicated a preference for solving issues with military might rather than diplomacy.

2 June 2017: Mr Trump announced he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, a controversial move that was criticised by several world leaders. Mr Tillerson pressed the President to remain in the agreement, which he had expressed his support for while serving as Exxon’s chief executive.

June 2017: Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson appeared to diverge over a regional crisis involving Qatar. The Secretary of State called on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease their blockade of Qatar and urged all involved in the dispute to quickly resolve their differences.

Mr Trump seemed to undercut Mr Tillerson shortly after, saying that the Saudi-led action against Qatar was “hard but necessary”. The President added he had been consulted in advance by nations that “spoke to me about confronting Qatar,” a country he said has been a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

25 July 2017: In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr Trump questioned the Iran deal, and said it was easier to say that Iran was complying with its requirements under the agreement. “Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply.”

July 2017: Mr Tillerson reportedly threatened to resign from his post following Mr Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts of America.

2 August 2017: Mr Trump signed a bill imposing further sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine. Mr Trump called the law “seriously flawed” and Mr Tillerson said the legislation would hamper efforts to form a closer relationship with Moscow.

27 August 2017: Mr Tillerson said the US maintained its commitment “equal treatment to people around the world” after international criticism for the White House’s tepid response to violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. When asked about the values of Mr Trump, Mr Tillerson said “the President speaks for himself.”

30 September 2017: Mr Tillerson said the US was in direct contact with North Korea, “probing” to see whether Pyongyang would be willing to engage in talks regarding the regime’s nuclear weapons programme. 

1 October 2017: But Mr Trump apparently wanted to pursue a different strategy, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter, using a disparaging reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

4 October 2017: In an impromptu press conference, Mr Tillerson said he would stay in the Trump administration as “long as he is useful”. He also declined to address a news report that he called Mr Trump a “moron”. A department spokesperson later said that the “the Secretary does not use that type of language”.

1 December 2017: Mr Tillerson is not leaving, the President tweeted, after US officials reportedly said the White House had a plan for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.

8 March 2018: While in Ethiopia, Mr Tillerson indicated the US was not ready for direct talks with North Korea, saying “the first step” was “some kind of talks about talks.” Later that day in Washington, it was announced that Mr Trump accepted an invitation to meet with North Korea’s leader.

12 March 2018: Mr Tillerson said “we have full confidence” in the UK’s assessment that Russia was likely responsible for a nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy in Salisbury last week. Mr Tillerson’s comments went further than the White House’s response, which stopped short of pinning blame on Moscow.

13 March 2018: Mr Trump fired Mr Tillerson. The outgoing top diplomat was not given an explanation for why he was being axed, an aide to Mr Tillerson said in a statement. 

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